New Library Is a Rich Community Resource

A reading bug has spread through families who visit the Breakthrough Joshua Center. Throughout the day, many residents of East Garfield Park visit the second floor library, which opened last January. For a neighborhood that has long struggled with poverty, it is an important resource, an oasis to explore new things.

.What sticks out the most to me, and what I.m really excited to see, is that the majority of pre-school moms come to check out books to read to their children,. says Reading Specialist, Gynger Garcia. She refers to mothers who have young children enrolled in Breakthrough Beginners. .Before the library, we had a few books in a corner of their classroom. The new space is so much more accessible..

She continues, .It.s a beautiful, inviting space with lots of ambiance. There.s a whole wall of adult-style novels and inspirational books, which is very popular the ladies who stay here in our transitional housing program and mothers who have kids in our academic programs. In fact, the Beginners. moms often check out books for themselves, too..

During the regular school year, the library is a center of activity for the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program, as students participate in reading workshops, homework time, and language arts games and activities. Students who have completed their homework use their free time to read, as well.

Gynger adds that the space is used year around. .Over the summer, the library served as a homeroom for the 3rd-5th graders in our Summer Studies program. The K-2nd graders had their literacy time here, and the 7-8th graders used the space to build the scale model of a city for their Sims project..

The library sees activity nearly every day of the week. .The kids constantly check out books,. says Gynger. .They can.t get enough!.

Most of the library.s furnishings, push carts and books came from donations through a women.s group , who raised money and also donated their time to help renovate the space. .It.s amazing! We have so many books now,. says Gynger. .They.ve continued to donate books since that time, and we get other donations as well.. She adds that, while she wouldn.t turn away books, the current shelves are completely full.

Literacy is an important key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Breakthrough is thankful to have partners who volunteer and give financially to bring hope to our community.

The Tables Are Set For Miracles

Table Hosts Experience The Power Of Small Sacrifices

“Table hosting is the most significant way we can be a part of the ministry,” says Keith Sunahara. Keith and his wife, Janice, have been table hosts at Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ Annual Benefit for the past five years. “Right now, our schedules and distance make it difficult for us to volunteer at one of the Centers. But hosting a table allows us to introduce new people to Breakthrough. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate.”

What about miracles?

Keith and Janice have attended the annual fundraiser for many years, even when they were held in the basement of First Evangelical Free Church. “We enjoy the process of inviting our friends,” says Keith. “It’s a relational way of introducing people to Breakthrough. They see our personal commitment and are more motivated to get involved.”

Keith adds, “Hosting tables is also our way of celebrating the participation of the seniors at Church of Christ Presbyterian, where we attend. The seniors serve lunch once a month to Breakthrough’s guests.”

Keith and Janice are largely responsible for encouraging others at their church to become involved. One year, they invited the senior volunteers to attend the Annual Benefit. “The first time they came, their eyes were really opened to how their service fit into the bigger picture,” says Keith. “They didn’t realize the breadth and scope of Breakthrough’s ministry. They thought they were just helping to serve a meal, but they were able to see how they are part of something much bigger and that God is using them to help heal lives through the love of Christ.”

Keith and Janice have been impacted by attending the Benefit, too. “Last year’s keynote speaker, Pastor Erwin McManus talked about the context for a miracle always being sacrifice. The definition of sacrifice is to forgo something valued for the sake of something having a more pressing claim,” remembers Keith. “Every year the miracles at Breakthrough have been the people whose lives have been transformed by Christ and people who listened to God’s calling to help those in need by sacrificing their time, talents, and treasure.”

Of the people they have invited to Benefits over the years, Keith and Janice know of several who now contribute financially to or volunteer at Breakthrough. “We see and feel the presence and blessing of God in Breakthrough’s ministry and consider it a privilege to be part of it,” says Keith.

Learning Economic Recovery From The Ground Up

We want to explore community and our relationship to it,. says 6-12th Grade Academic Coordinator, Seth El-Jamal. .Our young people know what it.s like to live in a neighborhood that struggles. We want them to become agents of change, and we believe that learning about how a community works is one of the major foundational tools for this type of growth..

He continues, .We.ll build a scale model of what students think a community should look like. They will come up with what resources a city needs to run successfully, like businesses, residential, parks, power and schools. They.ll get to decide where they should be located in relation to each other, and we.ll task different groups to be responsible for building models of each of these resources..

Nearly all of the 6-8th grade Summer Study curriculum focuses on community. .Our weekly Bible study segment also supports the idea of community building by looking at Scriptures that reference .one another. in an effort to help students develop a sense of caring for group instead of focusing on themselves,. says Seth.

Seth says that their experience in the building project will provide the opportunity for directed discussions of what it means to create and take care of a healthy community. .We.ll talk about the symbiotic relationship between resources and residents.and what happens to communities if resources are not available or are hard to come by..

Students will also participate in active community service at Matthew Manor, a local, assisted-living residence for senior citizens. As in the past several years, students will visit residents and play board games for an hour and a half each week.

Summer Studies Kicks Off

Each July, Breakthrough Urban Ministries offers Summer Studies, a program for youth in K-8th grades. .It.s a great chance to focus on particular topics and enrichment type activities,. says K-5th Grade Academic Coordinator, Andrea Jensen. .We.re able to offer learning opportunities that we can.t get to during the school year..

Students break up into three age groups, K-2nd, 3rd-5th and 6th-8th. .They stay together with the same class and teacher all day,. says Andrea, .which offers more consistency and gives us a greater opportunity to focus on behavior and character development..

Each group picks a novel to read, and staff focus heavily on reading literacy, as they do during the school year in the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program (NBSAP). The students will also use Orchard Reading Software.

The two younger groups will participate in a project using Webkins, the plush animal toys with an online counterpart. .We.ll use the virtual interaction to help teach them about the responsibility of caring for something,. says Andrea.

While the oldest youth will focus heavily on exploring the concept of community, the K-2nd grad group will learn about Illinois and plants. They.ll also have fun with math concepts through songs and work on basic social development skills. The 3rd-8th grade groups will also participate in art classes, allowing them to work complete a larger project by the end of Summer Studies.

Breakthrough partners with other organizations to round out the Summer Studies experience. Through an agreement with the Chicago Public Schools, youth in the program can spend an afternoon at the end of each week taking swimming classes at Homan Square. Students will eat breakfast and lunch each class day at Breakthrough through the Greater Chicago Food Depository program, Kids. Café.

Breakthrough Urban Ministri

New LaunchPAD Program

Volunteers needed to get initiative off the ground

This fall, five young men from Chicago.s west side will take an important step forward as they move into apartments at the Breakthrough Ministry Center and begin an 18-month journey of personal development called LaunchPAD. The new program encourages 18-24 year olds to maintain and further develop a holistically healthy lifestyle . physically, mentally, spiritually, academically and emotionally . and challenges them to launch into adulthood successfully by becoming positive leaders in the community.

It is a crucial chance for young men like .Terrence., 22. Like many of his peers, Terrence is at a crossroad. He is at risk for becoming homeless, even though he shows a strong desire to make positive life choices. .Many of us would find it difficult to reach our full God-given potential when our basic survival needs are in question,. says Breakthrough Urban Ministries Chief Operating Officer, Bill Curry. .We developed this program to help address that issue with these young men..

Terrence.s story is filled with family tragedy. Many of his dreams have been squashed by a severe storm of circumstances. Like other candidates, has had first-hand exposure to the effects of addiction, poverty, and violence. Terrence is very interested in his spiritual development, but he often wonders where his next meal will come from, or if he will ever be hired for a legitimate job. Like many of the candidates for the program, Terrence has been associated with Breakthrough through its youth program. He says, .Breakthrough has always been the one place where I am accepted, and pushed to be my best at the same time. I know I really need to be in the LaunchPAD program..

In order to get into LaunchPAD, the young men who are nominated must be enrolled at least part- time in continuing education or work at least part-time in a job where they have opportunity for significant advancement. They must also demonstrate a willingness to invest in the community. The young men go through an interview process, much like they would encounter for a job interview.

Terrence and the other young men get their own room, complete with a bed, an armoire, a desk and chair, storage space and wall décor. They share a common bathroom, eat in the Center.s dining area, and are subject to rules, much like college students their age would have in a dorm setting.

Staff members are finalizing details, but most of the program has been developed. .We looked at existing residential programs for young men and we talked to Breakthrough case managers who had worked with younger homeless men in our program to build a program that best addresses the challenges they face,. says Bill. The program incorporates internships, the DeVos Urban Leadership curriculum, Meyers-Briggs and other self-assessments, plus weekly discussion and workshop sessions, and several planned group outings and meals. At the end of the program, each participant will present their Personal Breakthrough Plan to their peers and volunteers. The plan will guide the next 3-5 years of their development.

Breakthrough seeks 25 men and women to invest in these young leaders to help provide a well-rounded experience. There are opportunities for one-time, occasional and regular volunteers to become involved formally and informally. .We have the curriculum mapped out,. says Bill. .We need people to facilitate discussions surrounding topics such as leadership, how to be a good tenant or how to give a good job interview. We also want to have volunteers who speak about their careers so the program participants will be exposed to a wide variety of vocations. And we.d really like to have volunteers who build mentor-type relationships for personal, spiritual, career or leadership-oriented areas. .The goal of the relationships is that they outlive the program and continue to deepen for years to come,. says Bill.

New Library Is a Rich Community Resource

A reading bug has spread through families who visit the Breakthrough Joshua Center. Throughout the day, many residents of East Garfield Park visit the second floor library, which opened last January. For a neighborhood that has long struggled with poverty, it is an important resource, an oasis to explore new things.

.What sticks out the most to me, and what I.m really excited to see, is that the majority of pre-school moms come to check out books to read to their children,. says Reading Specialist, Gynger Garcia. She refers to mothers who have young children enrolled in Breakthrough Beginners. .Before the library, we had a few books in a corner of their classroom. The new space is so much more accessible..

She continues, .It.s a beautiful, inviting space with lots of ambiance. There.s a whole wall of adult-style novels and inspirational books, which is very popular the ladies who stay here in our transitional housing program and mothers who have kids in our academic programs. In fact, the Beginners. moms often check out books for themselves, too..

During the regular school year, the library is a center of activity for the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program, as students participate in reading workshops, homework time, and language arts games and activities. Students who have completed their homework use their free time to read, as well.

Gynger adds that the space is used year around. .Over the summer, the library served as a homeroom for the 3rd-5th graders in our Summer Studies program. The K-2nd graders had their literacy time here, and the 7-8th graders used the space to build the scale model of a city for their Sims project..

The library sees activity nearly every day of the week. .The kids constantly check out books,. says Gynger. .They can.t get enough!.

Most of the library.s furnishings, push carts and books came from donations through a women.s group , who raised money and also donated their time to help renovate the space. .It.s amazing! We have so many books now,. says Gynger. .They.ve continued to donate books since that time, and we get other donations as well.. She adds that, while she wouldn.t turn away books, the current shelves are completely full.

Literacy is an important key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Breakthrough is thankful to have partners who volunteer and give financially to bring hope to our community.

The Tables Are Set For Miracles

“Table hosting is the most significant way we can be a part of the ministry,” says Keith Sunahara. Keith and his wife, Janice, have been table hosts at Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ Annual Benefit for the past five years. “Right now, our schedules and distance make it difficult for us to volunteer at one of the Centers. But hosting a table allows us to introduce new people to Breakthrough. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate.”

What about miracles?

Keith and Janice have attended the annual fundraiser for many years, even when they were held in the basement of First Evangelical Free Church. “We enjoy the process of inviting our friends,” says Keith. “It’s a relational way of introducing people to Breakthrough. They see our personal commitment and are more motivated to get involved.”

Keith adds, “Hosting tables is also our way of celebrating the participation of the seniors at Church of Christ Presbyterian, where we attend. The seniors serve lunch once a month to Breakthrough’s guests.”

Keith and Janice are largely responsible for encouraging others at their church to become involved. One year, they invited the senior volunteers to attend the Annual Benefit. “The first time they came, their eyes were really opened to how their service fit into the bigger picture,” says Keith. “They didn’t realize the breadth and scope of Breakthrough’s ministry. They thought they were just helping to serve a meal, but they were able to see how they are part of something much bigger and that God is using them to help heal lives through the love of Christ.”

Keith and Janice have been impacted by attending the Benefit, too. “Last year’s keynote speaker, Pastor Erwin McManus talked about the context for a miracle always being sacrifice. The definition of sacrifice is to forgo something valued for the sake of something having a more pressing claim,” remembers Keith. “Every year the miracles at Breakthrough have been the people whose lives have been transformed by Christ and people who listened to God’s calling to help those in need by sacrificing their time, talents, and treasure.”

Of the people they have invited to Benefits over the years, Keith and Janice know of several who now contribute financially to or volunteer at Breakthrough. “We see and feel the presence and blessing of God in Breakthrough’s ministry and consider it a privilege to be part of it,” says Keith.

A Wondrous Event

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual Benefit on Friday night, October 30th. Together we raised over $877,000 to support life-changing work in the city.

Praise God!

Spread Christmas Joy By Sorting Toys!

Breakthrough volunteers are gearing up for the Annual Christmas Store. This year’s event will be Saturday, December 19th at the Breakthrough Ministry Center. The Store provides a festive environment where shelter guests and neighborhood residents can purchase gifts for loved ones at a reduced cost.

Volunteers play an important role in the success of this day by planning activities and entertainment, sorting and stocking gifts, and helping to create a joyful, welcoming atmosphere for guests to enjoy a day of shopping and celebrating Christmas.

“We want to create an atmosphere of celebration and fellowship,” says Lisa, a member of last year’s planning committee. Lisa has lived in the community for 28 years. Her daughter has been involved in many of Breakthrough’s programs, including Bible study, the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program, choir, and several sports.

“From the décor to details on how gifts were arranged, we try to make this a great experience for the community,” says Lisa. “Last year, we had an emcee to move things along throughout the day. We provided great snacks and a choir. We also planned lots of music so shoppers could sing spiritual hymns and Christmas songs.”

According to Lisa, many neighborhood residents and Breakthrough guests eagerly await the day’s activities. “When people make a donation to the Christmas Store, it allows us to offer an opportunity to people who would not ordinarily be able to afford gifts for their families,” she says.

Thankful Even In Difficult Times

The holidays can be an especially difficult time for many, including people who have no family or are estranged from their family. But many guests at Breakthrough Urban Ministries still have much to say about what they are thankful for.

Dorise was able to keep her family together and gain a stronger support system. .I am a single mother, and my 20-year-old son.my only child, has had kidney failure,. says Dorise. .His condition was a big financial stress for us..

After they were evicted from their home, Dorise ended up in another shelter. .We had never been away from each other,. she says. .It was hard on both of us.. Recounting her desolation of having no one to turn to, Dorise remembers, .I was so lonely..

Dorise has now begun a process of reconciliation with her own family, and she credits Breakthrough with helping her take the first steps. .This is my family too,. she says. .I was able to tell them anything and everything.. At Breakthrough, she is also able to keep in closer contact with her son. .And he knows that I.m happy here, and that he doesn.t have to worry about me..

Patricia is thankful for the many ways in which she has received support at Breakthrough. .I was able to keep my identity,. she stresses. .I am thankful that the people here let me be an individual. They always .meet me where I.m at.. They understand that different people are on different pages in their lives..

After years of living her life in crisis, Patricia is learning how to make healthy choices again. .I have a history of not being very responsible over the past few years. The person I was before drugs and everything seemed to go away. I lost how to do things. I lost everything.job, family and more,. says Patricia. .But Breakthrough encourages me to get up and start new every day. Even when I fall, they help me pick myself up and try to make it a new way..

Patricia is also grateful for the spiritual motivation she receives. .The devotions include me and what I.m dealing with. We talk about how to handle everyday life, but I.m able to look at choices and options. Nothing is forced on me,. she says. .I feel encouraged to start every day uplifted..

In fact, even though it can be tough to see other guests leave when Patricia is still on a waiting list for housing, she finds a way to be thankful. .When someone leaves, it means they.re taking another good step. .it means that someday, I.m leaving too..